[ISEA2015] Artists Statement: Chris Rodley & Andrew Buttrell – DEATH OF AN ALCHEMIST

Artists Statement

Database novel (2015)

Death of an Alchemist is a novel written with data: a literary narrative generated in real time from online information. In the story, a present-day narrator logs onto the Internet to investigate the death of Johannes Trithemius, a German abbot and alchemist who died in 1516. He left behind a mysterious book, the Steganographia, which is to contain the hidden secrets of the universe disguised in code. The work consists of a wall of projected text and symbols that is generated by scraping a range of online data sources for news headlines, social media posts, gifs, memes and more. As the text flickers and updates with each new piece of data that is received, readers are invited to follow the clues to unravel the mystery of the Steganographia and discover who killed Trithemius and why.

  • Andrew Burrell is a contemporary arts practitioner with a long history in real-time 3D and interactive audio installation. He is exploring notions of self and narrative and the implications of virtual worlds, networked environments and artificial life systems upon identity. His networked projects in virtual environments include mellifera (with Trish Adams), Virtual Macbeth (with Kereen Ely-Harper), Augmentiforms (in collaboration with Warren Armstrong and presented at ISEA2011), and IUXTA (ISEA2013). Andrew holds a PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia, his research having focused on philosophical and poetic connections between memory, the collected object and narrative.
  • Chris Rodley is a writer for new media whose work is exploring emerging frontiers for the literary in networked environments. Most recently, his focus has been on telling stories with data in a series of collaborations with hybrid media artist Andrew Burrell. They include the public artwork Enquire Within Upon Everybody, which appeared at The Portals exhibition in Sydney and Darwin as part of ISEA2013, and Everything is Going To Be OK :), which appeared at Underbelly Arts Festival and the Electronic Literature Organization Media Arts Show in Milwaukee, USA. Chris is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, Australia, as well as a contributor at BuzzFeed.com.

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